Finding the best seat on a plane varies for everyone and depends on your needs, the time of day, your connection time and your budget. What I consider a ‘best seat’ may not be the one you prefer. Before you commit to a seat selection, here are some considerations when choosing and also ways to get the seat you want.
What’s the best seat for you?
Window vs Aisle seat
For most flights, aisle seats are considered premium seats, however, window seats are considered premium on red-eye flights. This makes sense. I can’t handle being trapped in a window seat. I need the option of getting up and moving around. The only time I prefer a window is on an overnight flight so the window/wall is my headrest to fall asleep on.
Exit seats are good for leg room, especially the aisle seat. However, because children can’t be seated in an exit row, families need to avoid them.
Bulkheads are considered best for legroom and since there’s no one in front of you, there’s no one to recline their seat into your space. For those traveling with children, bulkheads are ideal for that much-needed extra play area or baby’s bed. Personally, I’m not a fan of bulkheads. I prefer to have a seat in front of me under which I can stow my purse or laptop bag. With a bulkhead seat, you have to store all bags in the overhead bin and have no access to them during take-off or landing. As well, some bulkheads aren’t as spacious as others. It’s best to pre-check bulkhead space by viewing the plane’s seating plan at www.seatguru.com.
Seats at the rear of the plane vs front of the plane
Do you need a quick exit from the plane? Pick a seat on the left side, in the front if you have a tight flight connection or want to be first in line at Customs. Traditionally, the main entrance or exit on a plane is on the left side of the plane so if there are two aisles on a large plane, typically travelers in the front left de-plane faster.
The best seat to ensure space to stow your carry-on bag in an overhead bin is often the rear of the plane. That is, as long as the plane boards back to front. Recently I’ve been on flights that have started boarding front to back. In that case, being near the front means a better chance of fitting carry-on in the overhead bin.
If you need easy washroom access, sitting closer to the rear is best. And, if you sit closer to the back, you’re not as likely to be stuck with a trolley in the aisle blocking your access to the washroom. Be cautious of going too far back though. Too close to the back means putting up with odors, listening to the crew talk or having people hang over your seat while they wait in line. If you’re on a flight where food is served, your selections may not be available once the attendant gets to the back rows.
What about over-the-wing seats?
If you’re a nervous flier, an over-the-wing is recommended because there’s less turbulence at mid-plane.
Researching seat selection per aircraft
There are many good online tools that can help research seats on a particular aircraft. SeatGuru may be the most recognizable. However, since it’s purchase by TripAdvisor, some argue their updates are less timely. With SG, you can research the plane’s layout and find out which seats have the most legroom, a power outlet, a window, a reclining seat and which is closest/furthest from washrooms.
Other aircraft layout sites include Seat Expert, Seat Plans, and Skytrax. Expert Flyer offers a feature where you enter your details to create a flight alert and when a ‘better’ seat becomes available, you’ll be notified. This one also offers visibility on current seat availability. So at the last minute, you can access your plane’s layout and request seat changes.
What’s the best way to get the seat you want?
Now that you have a good idea which seat you’d prefer, what’s the best strategy to get that seat? Using these tactics you’ll more likely have higher success getting that seat.
Frequent Flyer Programs
Loyalty matters. Join the airline’s frequent flyer program. Because the airline sees you have a history of flying with them, you’re more likely to get the seat you request.
Book flights early
Book early to receive the seat you’d like and if possible, select your seat when you book.
Is it worth purchasing a seat?
It may be worth the extra money to purchase seat selection if it’s important to you. Some ascribe to the theory that when you purchase seat selection you have a better chance of Not being bumped from a sold-out flight. I don’t agree with that. I’ve never been bumped from a flight and only once (when traveling with a dog) did I purchase seat selection.
Are you traveling as a pair and want a row to yourselves?
If two are traveling together and there are three seats in your row, one strategy is to reserve one aisle seat and one window seat – then its less likely the middle seat will be taken giving you and your partner the row. If the middle seat does get sold, likely that person would be willing to switch seats with you to either the window or aisle seat so you can sit with your companion.
Check-in online as early as possible
Checking in online is usually permitted 24 hours prior. When you check in online, you see the seats that are still available so you can select the best seat from those remaining.
At the airport
If you can’t check in online, be sure to get to the airport early. Being near the first of the line does have its seat advantages.
During in-person check-in, confirm your seat with the agent and ask if other seats have become available.
It never hurts to ask…upon check-in, it never hurts to ask politely if there are good deals available for upgrades to business or first class. He who never asks, never gets!
Now get out there and enjoy a comfortable flight.
*Note: None of the companies or products listed here have contacted us, paid or requested we mention them. All references are entirely the result of travel research.*
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